By Laman Ismayilova
The history of Azerbaijan is inseparably connected with cultivating pomegranates.
Pomegranate occupies a special place even in Azerbaijan literature. According to a legend, pomegranate is the symbol of love. Back then, expressing love with words was treated as impolite behaving. Men expressed their feelings by bringing a pomegranate to women and thus confessed their love.
Moreover, many national songs and poems are devoted to pomegranate, which was called the king of fruit.
There are various sorts of pomegranate in Azerbaijan, distinguished by their delicious taste. Currently, about 200 varieties of pomegranate of Azerbaijani origin are known. The most famous varieties include Veles, Shirin, Guleysha, Shikhbaba, etc. These varieties differ in the thickness of peel and size of grains.
Every year since 2006, foodies from across the country gather at traditional Pomegranate Festival in Goychay to taste this viscous sauce. The festival serves to promote the Azerbaijani pomegranate, a cultural and tourism symbol of the country.
This round red fruit is widely used in the country's national cuisine. Pomegranate sauce called narsharab is a real pride of Azerbaijani cuisine. "Narsharab" is translated as "pomegranate wine", but there is not a drop of alcohol in the sauce.
Narsharab is prepared from pre-pressed fresh pomegranate seeds. Pomegranate grains are poured over the fire and slowly boiled. A few hours later the liquid is removed from the heat.
Salt and spices such as pepper, coriander, bay leaf, cinnamon, and basil are added to enhance the taste.
There are many recipes of narsharab widely used in Azerbaijani cuisine. The best one is made from Goychay pomegranate variety.
Narsharab will add a special zest to any food. Best of all the sauce of pomegranate juice is combined with meat and fish, but it can also be used as a marinade or dressing for various salads. Some people like to add the sauce even into desserts.
Many Azerbaijanis enjoy this delicacy, simply dipping a slice of bread in a bowl with thick pomegranate juice.
Pomegranate, the country's national symbol has already received worldwide recognition. Last year, 180,000 tons of pomegranates were produced in Azerbaijan. The main export destinations this year were Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
The pomegranate contains hundreds of edible seeds called arils, which are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and bioactive plant compounds.
Pomegranate juice and peel are used in the treatment of up to 20 diseases. Moreover, pomegranate rind, as well as oil from its seeds are used in cosmetology, pharmaceutical production.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
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